Ruston, Louisiana-based Hunt, Guillot & Associates, LLC (HGA) initially just served the wood-products industry from a single, small trailer. The firm, founded in 1997 by Trott Hunt and Jay Guillot, evolved over time, though, and today it’s organized into four business units—engineering services, disaster-recovery program management, on-site technical staffing, and pipeline services—based in 12 cities in Louisiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, and the Middle East.
Built on long-term relationships, the HGA business model is clearly working: the company has averaged 30 percent top-line growth over the past 10 years, according to Hunt’s son, Trotter, who joined in 2008 and now serves as vice president of finance. Here are a few different looks at the story of its expansion.
Helping the Oil and Gas Sector Catch Up
US production of oil and gas has intensified on the back of new technologies (such as fracking and horizontal drilling) and higher-than-expected oil prices driven by overseas turmoil. But, the midstream sector of the oil and gas industry—which involves the transportation, storage, and wholesale marketing of crude or refined petroleum products—is playing catch-up. “The industry has a lot of work to do to get the infrastructure in place to move that oil and gas around the country via pipelines rather than trains,” Trotter says.
This lack has been a boon for HGA, which is seeing increased work in Texas, where crude oil production is poised to surpass its 1972 all-time high within two years, according to the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. The company’s projects involve engineering and pipeline services. “We don’t do upstream work, which is drilling, or downstream work, which is carrying gas to your house, but we do everything in between,” Trotter says. “We route and engineer pipelines, we bring gas and oil from well heads through transmission lines to local deliverers, and we oversee the meter-regulator stations that hand off gas from one pipeline company to the other.”
Administering Hurricane Relief
After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike ravaged Louisiana between 2005 and 2008, the state turned to HGA for help—but not in engineering. “There were also a number of larger infrastructure-relief programs available to help rebuild roads, bridges, water-treatment facilities, and government buildings, but someone needed to administer them,” says Trotter, whose firm was called upon to oversee more than $1.4 billion in hurricane-relief funds.
The project involved working with communities to analyze needs, determine what infrastructure qualified for relief programs, and write grant applications. The relief effort—the largest in the country to date—was so successful that HGA was recently awarded a similar project to administer recovery efforts stemming from Hurricane Sandy. With new offices established in Manhattan, Albany, Kingston, and Farmingdale, New York, HGA plans to devote 50 employees, subcontractors, and partners to the multiyear program, which will likely stretch till 2020.
A Match Made in Baton Rouge
In November 2013, R&D Consulting, a 30-person Baton Rouge, Louisiana, engineering and technical-services firm, approached HGA about an acquisition. The approach wasn’t a surprise: having made a number of “best” lists, including Inc.’s for the fastest-growing companies in the nation, HGA was on the minds of many deal brokers. What was a surprise, though, was how good the match turned out to be.
“The two owners [of R&D Consulting] took over in 1996 and since then have been serving the same clients with many of the same employees,” Trotter says. “We pride ourselves on building long-term relationships with clients and employees by providing quality work and delivering on the commitments we make, so it was a good cultural fit.”
Trotter also sees significant growth coming in southern Louisiana, especially the Baton Rouge area, with the low cost of natural gas driving an expansion in chemical and manufacturing facilities. “Acquiring R&D was a way for us to get a good core team in place in Baton Rouge,” Trotter says of the deal, which closed in September 2014.
Q&A with Trotter Hunt
Skirting Geopolitical Tensions in Iraq
In 2012, HGA won a contract to design, fabricate, and deliver meter-regulator skids for Kalegran, a Turkish exploration and production firm working in northern Iraq. HGA established a Dubai, UAE, office to handle the job, and nine people now work there, primarily providing midstream oil and gas services in northern Iraq. Below, Trotter Hunt discusses the move.
Have there been challenges?
Working outside the country is always a challenge, regardless of where. You have to learn the laws and customs of doing business in a foreign culture, and trying to hire people, especially when pay rates are higher, as they are for expatriates, is tough.
It must be particularly difficult in a location experiencing geopolitical instability.
It has been. In Iraq, not only is the turmoil in that region a terrible situation; it also has significant implications for our business. We’re just not where we want to be from a revenue standpoint.
What steps are you taking to improve the situation?
We’re talking to clients in other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Oman, trying to get some work in those areas. My brother has lived in Dubai for eight years now, and his father-in law has lived there for 35 years, so they have a lot of contacts.